Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Occupy Workshops and My Concerns

Before I write another word, I feel like a disclaimer is in order. I knew many Friends who participated in the Occupy movement, back in its heyday. While I came to eventually lose patience with the movement, even to disagree openly with its stated priorities, I still maintain a respect for those who put their full weight behind the cause. I feel that these heavily committed Friends never left Occupy behind, but that extenuating circumstances beyond anyone's control eventually dissolved the larger gathering under the weight of its own self-important rhetoric.

In some ways, by writing today, I feel like I am attempting to document past history, not present reality as it is. To me, for all intents and purposes, Occupy DC ended when the National Park Service prevented on-site camping, months ago. Occupy has tried to survive as a series of open-ended workshop initiatives, some of which are to be held on the grounds of the Monthly Meeting of which I am a member. This raises a few concerns. I am not the only member or regular attender who feels this way. While these activities will not be officially sponsored by Friends Meeting of Washington, they seem to be spearheaded by a long-time member or two.

Most of the protests within the membership of FMW may be motivated by weariness and the fear of potential conflict. Political discourse + Quaker Meeting almost encourages division and stridency, especially here in our Nation’s capital. I can’t think of anything yet formulated by human hands and brains that can create discord and controversy quite that same way. Adding an additional layer of liberal political expression on top of a Meeting already politically top-heavy is bound to raise someone’s hackles. Reactive and counter-productive conversation is usually what occurs as a result.

I for one would rather we schedule something this in-depth that is explicitly religious, because I sometimes think that people with whom I worship have entirely forgotten what religious expression really is. In surveying the proposed workshops, few, if any, make any mention of God or the Holy Spirit. Religion really is nothing to be ashamed about, after all.

I understand the good intentions of those who feel that the remnants of Occupy have something valuable to add. And I also can tolerate that this group will be using our space to conduct its programs and workshops. This sets me apart from the tone of a few very vocal critics. In every argument, some people raise concerns for the right reasons. Some people raise concerns for purely selfish motives. It can be problematic to separate the two out, to know where one begins and the other ends.

Some Friends have raised issues only because they can never be inconvenienced, for any reason, at any time. This is unrealistic, selfish, and even not a bit altruistic. All these statements reveal is an healthy entitlement complex. Many upper NW Washington, DC, residents already possess that quality in distressing proportion. I see ample good intentions, but without the proper perspective, intentions by themselves are worthless. I have seen enough people in this city make decisions based upon emotional overreactions, not sober contemplation of the facts. This unwillingness to let cooler heads prevail is the same reason I lost faith in the Occupy Movement.

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